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Apple Laying Groundwork for Advanced Mobile Web Apps?

It seems Apple is continuing to invest in advancing web-based technologies to provide a more full feature experienced on the iPhone and iPod Touch. Daring Fireball's John Gruber describes in detail an impressive web framework called PastryKit that was developed by Apple and deployed in their iPhone User Guide web page (when viewed from an iPhone). (Video demonstration)

The article is somewhat technical for casual readers, but essentially, Apple has implemented a few key interface features in Javascript that could make web-apps feel much more like native iPhone apps. These include:

- Completely hiding the address bar
- Allowing for fixed-position toolbars that don't move when you scroll
- Allows for scrolling with momentum so you can quickly scroll long lists

Any iPhone web apps you might have used before have likely demonstrated the same fixed scrolling speed inherent in mobile Safari, and were unable to keep a dedicated toolbar at the top or bottom of the pages. These small changes go a long way towards making web apps feel more natural on the iPhone.

Since these features have been implemented by Apple in Javascript, they could be available to any web developer. Despite big strides in Javascript performance in mobile Safari, however, the performance of their framework still lags on older generation devices.

In the future, it seems likely that we'll see more and more functionality move to the mobile web. In fact, Google Engineering vice president predicted that the mobile web would become the dominant mobile application development platform of the future, despite Apple's massive success with the App Store. Indeed, over the past year we've seen advancements in HTML5/CSS which include support for CSS animations, OpenGL 2.0/WebGL, accelerometers, and even GPS support.

As these technologies become more common and iPhones continue to become faster, it's easy to see how the future web applications could replace some of the current native App Store apps.

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